Experimental Poetics of the Asian Diaspora: Readings in Meatspace and Cyberspace

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Since the 1980s, experimental poets of Asian descent writing in English around the world have created works informed by both their experiences of being in the Asian diaspora and their subjectivities in the age of advancing computing technologies. Studies of these works have been scarce and few have put them all together in order to make an argument about how to read them in connection with each other. The aim of this dissertation is to make a case for what I call the diasporic reading framework, and to argue that this way of reading fills in crucial gaps in our understandings of experimental Asian poetry.

The diasporic reading framework uses diaspora, in this specific case the Asian diaspora, as a concept that helps us interpret the techniques, forms, and content of digitally-influenced poetry produced since the 1980s. In turn, this reading also allows us to see how the experimentations of these poets enrich the conventional categorizations of Asian diasporic writing. To this end, I gather an archive of literary works that includes the poetry of more renowned and canonically accepted poets (e.g. Leung Ping-kwan, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Fred Wah) as well as less easily categorized genres by lesser known individuals and groups (e.g. multi-media works, blogs, public projects) in order to read them together productively.

The first chapter of my dissertation uses poetry from Hong Kong as a case study to establish my definition of diaspora and build a theoretical basis for using it as a reading framework. The second chapter takes this framework and applies it to works beyond Hong Kong, demonstrating its portability as well as showing how the abstraction of shared land into non-physical spaces is a powerful way to understand works that have previously been considered only post-colonialist, only nationalist, or only feminist. Chapter three applies this reading further to works that experiment with form using digital technology, and the final chapter revisits previous themes in light of new advances in social media. I conclude that the political stakes of diaspora as a reading framework is its function as a tactic against hegemony.

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Jill Walker Rettberg